We drove North along the coast again as far as Watsonville Friday, including a pass around the 17 mile drive through Pebble Beach. Saturday, we stopped in Santa Cruz for errands, then on to Half Moon Bay
Thought it might be fun to share what some of these state and national park campgrounds can look like - not very crowded this time of year unless you're near big cities. This is the Plaskett Creek Campground we stayed in last night, lovely place. Mom tried taking pictures of the blue jays, but she needs a more 'mom friendly' camera I'm afraid.
We continued our drive up Hwy 1, the California Coast Highway again this morning - very beautiful, very rugged! It was foggy this morning, but you can still get some idea what our drive was like. I haven't been able to make very good time along Highway 1, it's only two lanes, lots of curves and cliffs and lots of hills - so I'm lucky to average 25 - 30 mph? Maybe slower, most cars like to take the road a lot faster then this of course, so I pull over a lot to let other cars by.
There is a short stretch where Hwy 1 leaves the coast to go through Big Sur. As we came over a hill, all of a sudden it was sunny & warm! As soon as we left Big Sur however, it was foggy again. In fact, if you look closely you can see the fog spilling over the top of the far hill in this shot.
We didn't spend very long in Big Sur, just a short trip though a gift shop, a few pic's and sun ray's. Just after going through Big Sur, Hwy 1 turns back to the coast just in time to see the Point Sur Lightstation. We had been warned that this is only open for guided tours and requires a lot of walking, so we just viewed it from the road.
The Monterey area was about 24 miles farther and I was excited to get there as I'd lived there before (many, many years ago) and remembered it fondly. Hmm, I should know better then to try to go back in time, it just never quite works out. Actually, it probably would have been fine except when I lived there before - I wasn't driving an RV. The streets are quite narrow and hilly, so even a very small RV like mine isn't the most welcome vehicle on the road.
We skipped Carmel, but decided to take the famed "17 Mile Drive" through Pebble Beach. Hmm, I don't remember them charging to drive this before? (Guess I have been gone a long time). But I went ahead and forked over the big bucks (about $10 these days) and did the drive. There is a lot of beautiful and rugged coastal scenery close to the roadway in a fairly compact area, but I'm not sure it's any better than what we'd been driving through all week - but this is the only stretch anybody's charged us just to drive on it. (OK, I'll pull my fangs in a bit).
All of the 'sights' along this drive are very well marked, and there is enough room to pull over to enjoy them - even for a small RV, so at least it was easy to enjoy the drive. One of the most photographed 'sights' is a 250 year old Cypress tree called "The Lone Cypress"
Just to the right of this is a crusty old dead tree they call the "Ghost Tree". Actually, there are several dead tree trunks in this area, but I think this is the one they were referring to?
But mostly, I think the attraction of the drive is the rough, rocky surf. Perhaps it would be worth paying for if we hadn't just spent the past two weeks driving up the coast!
Perhaps for some, another attraction on the drive is seeing the golf courses. We're not be golf fans or golfers, so for us these weren't such a big deal. I thought it was kind of a shame that they made the public feel so unwelcome with so many "Private Property - No Tresspassing signs every few feet. Perhaps they should at least set up a few overlooks of the famous golf courses (with signage about interesting factoids?), afterall we paid for the drive so maybe this should be part of the attractions?
As we neared the end of the drive, I again turned my attention to more basic needs - gas. The price near Hearst Castle had been so outrageous (Price Gouging anyone?) that I had only bought enough gas to ensure we could make it to Monterey, so now we were definitely in need of another gas fix. There is one gas station near the end of the 17 mile drive, so again they have a captive audience and again, at a price gouging rate of $4.56/gallon (that's for Regular). So I bought one gallon, resolved to find something a little more reasonable.
It was late and I figured an RV wasn't the best vehicle to drive through Carmel, so I decided to take Hwy 68 to Pacific Grove. I'd remembered really liking the restaurants on Cannery Row, but as we got closer, I realized I was probably driving a much smaller car back then. Actually I was getting around OK, but the roads were quite small, there was a lot of traffic and we weren't seeing any parking for the most part, so instead of 'doing the town', we figured we'd had enough sightseeing for today and would just head north to a state park Mom had found near Watsonville.
I finally did find a gas station first however with somewhat more reasonably priced gas (if you can call it that), but I couldn't get into a pump - there were too many fast, nimble, small cars zipping around and there just wasn't enough room to manouver the RV to a spot I could fit. We gave up and drove on towards Hwy 1, figuring there would likely be stations near the highway. There was one, but again the cars could fit in much better then I. This hasn't usually been a problem, I suspect land in Monterey is kind of pricey and they just squeeze gas stations onto smaller lots than in most cities. Anyway, I just parked the rig in front of one of the rows of pumps and waited. Sure enough, eventually a space cleared up and I got to a pump - just as someone zipped in from the other side and blocked me! But, hold the press, he actually backed up a few feet so I could use the pump (a big contrast to our treatment at the next fillup in Half Moon Bay in a couple of days).
We drove north to Castroville and pulled off at an Artichoke stand. Castroville bills itself as the "Artichoke Center of the World". I don't know about that, but it does produce about 75% of the Artichokes sold in the U.S. and we did drive through a lot of acres of Artichokes. The fruitstand was pretty decent, we stocked up on some produce, but skipped the signature product since they are hard to cook in an RV (I don't want to use up all my propane boiling them and didn't think they'd last too well in the fridge until we got back to WA). But I did get a couple of pictures...
Mom wanted to head to Sunset State Beach, a little farther north, but it was already getting dark and I saw a sign in Moss Landing for an RV park, so I turned off. The marina by the side of the road had something interesting in the water so I pulled over to take a look. It was almost too dark to get a good picture, but there were two sea otter's just floating around and around - looked like they were taking a nap, or at least a lounge break?
We found the RV park and it was pretty nice, it also had lots of space and cost $60/night - so I agreed with Mom to try Sunset State Beach instead. This must be the flip side of the huge cost of land in CA - sooner or later everything else has to cost more also. The beach was just up the road a bit further, also had space and only cost us $23 for the night (without hookups of course), so that's where we crashed for the night. In the morning, we drove the road down the sand dunes to the beach.
Of course, what's a beach without getting a little bit wet - even in the winter?
We also saw a new bird (for us), a Marbled Godwit. I have a feeling I've probably seen lots of birds before, but knowing so little about the things - just call them by the wrong name. Well, we're learning - for example, not all birds that run around in the surf with skinny legs and beaks are sandpipers - this one's a godwit.
As we drove away from the beach, I also snapped a couple shots of the coastal farmland and trees common in this area, as well as the entrance to a beachfront SDA Academy where my brother attended HS:
We drove on to Santa Cruz, where I spent several hours parked in the Staples parking lot to work on finishing up the lease/option business for my dad's place. This is the reason I combined these two days into one blog entry, thinking there wouldn't be enough pic's to bother with a separate entry (too lazy to take pictures in SC once I'd finished up the contract business). However in hind sight, it probably would have been better to do separate entries. Next time?
So we headed up the coast thinking we'd just be heading north to a campground (hopefully at Half Moon Bay) and that would be it for the day. The coastal scenery along here was very pretty - in spite of a nasty side wind we had to fight the rest of the day.
While the wind made it somewhat stressful to drive, others found the wind absolutely perfect! Just a few miles north of Santa Cruz, the kite boarders were out in force. There weren't as many wind surfers, but there were a few. I don't know how they avoided running into each other there were so many of them in the surf! (I have some video of this I'll try to post once the blog is caught up...)
We also saw Pigeon Point Lighthouse. The lighthouse complex is open to the public, in fact you can even stay in some of the buildings which are now maintained as a Hostel. The 115' lighthouse tower is in very bad shape however and closed to climbing (of course, they're hoping the public will donate enough money to restore it). One building has also been set aside for exhibits about the coast in that area and history of the lighthouse. The surf was very, very rough here and there are a lot of rocks and fog along this stretch of coast, so it makes sense to put a lighthouse here. Although I couldn't climb the lighthouse, I did walk around quite a bit and really enjoyed the exhibits. Since we've already visited several lighthouses on this trip, I'll try to resist the urge to post all the info about the place, but will at least add that the First Order Fresnel Lens here has over 1,000 pieces to it.
Finally, we actually did make it to Half Moon Bay. There is a state park there, but the sign said full. Fortunately I decided to ask anyway and the handicapped space was still available (it was the only one available). We haven't had any trouble finding camp sites along the coast until now - maybe the proximity to San Francisco, or maybe the wind (kiteboarders?). The wind continued throughout the evening and the surf was quite spectacular. The sunset was a well, so I bundled up and hustled over to the beach to take pictures. Mom wanted a pic of a seagull flying in front of the sun as it set. I didn't quite get that, but am quite content with the ones I got - hard to pic a favorite, so I uploaded a couple.